5. Lead Me On by Victoria Dahl. I have to admit I wasn't sure that I was going to like this book. I read some reviews that seemed to over-emphasize Jane's snobbiness and so I thought I wouldn't like the heroine. But instead I was interested in what made her tick, how long she would be able to maintain tight control with so many pressures on her, and how she would finally learn to resolve her past with the woman she wanted to be. I found her to be very interesting and very human. And I also liked Chase. He comes across as a normal guy who was very patient and persistent. Yet he was not without issues of his own. I found them to be a believable couple and it made for an entertaining read. I am glad I decided to read it after all.
4. Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed by Jo Beverley. This was Ms. Beverley's first published book (1988) and it was recently reprinted. It's a sweet traditional regency. Lord Wraybourne needs to marry and he chooses the daughter of a wealthy family. Jane has had a strict and sheltered upbringing and Lord Wraybourne believes he's gaining a quiet, dutiful wife. When she is allowed to go to London to prepare for her marriage, the real Jane emerges. This is a very enjoyable story and well done, especially when you remember it was a first book.
3. Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter. This is the first book in a new quartet by Ms. Hunter. Sebastian and Audrianna are each trying to solve the same mystery. Audrianna is trying to clear her late father's name (he is blamed for sending poor gunpowder to British troops in Spain) while Sebastian wants to know who his co-conspirators were. When they meet and are found in a compromising situation they are forced into a betrothal. The book is the story of them solving the mystery as well as their deepening attraction to one another. As usual, Ms. Hunter's wonderful prose makes the book a treat to read. The other books in the quartet are set up here, but not with a heavy hand. I'm looking forward to the next book which is already out.
2. Upon a Wicked Time by Karen Ranney. Jered is a Duke who needs a wife to produce his heir. He chooses Tessa, who coincidentally is a young woman who had fallen in love with him at the age of 16. Jered is not a nice man. He is a selfish hedonist. Tessa learns quickly that she fell in love with an image, not with the real Jered. Yet while Jered is busy pushing Tessa away, she is more and more determined to make a success of their marriage. This was a hard book to read because of who Jered is and the choices he makes. Jered does not change overnight, and indeed has some hard lessons to learn. I liked how Ms. Ranney portrayed Jered's natural arrogance, which was in large part due to simply being a duke and the way others treated him. Tessa's parents make interesting secondary characters; they are loving and protective of their daughter and have to learn to let her go. This is a rich and sensual story that may not be for everyone, but I was certainly thoroughly engrossed in it.
1. The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig. This is hands down my favorite in Willig's Pink Carnation series since the very first book. The heroine is disgraced Penelope who is hastily married to Sir Frederick Staines when they are caught in compromising position. Freddy is sent off to India and of course Penelope accompanies him. As with the rest of the series there are French spies, more adventure, and true love for Penelope. Interspersed is the continued story of modern-day Eloise who is "researching" the story of the Pink Carnation network. I loved the setting in India (so nice to get out of England once in awhile) and the plot was a little more straightforward than some of the previous books (my poor brain!). This was a very entertaining read, although I would suggest some familiarity with the previous books.
Oh, and I re-read Lord of Scoundrels. As ever, an example of the finest in the genre. I love that book.